EMD "F7" Diesel Locomotives

The F7 was the Electro-Motive's four entry in its line of freight service locomotives and proved to be one of the most successful designs of any type ever built.

The model debuted directly after the F3 in the late 1940s and with EMD's success in the market up to that point railroads quickly placed orders for the F7. Once again, the latest F model proved efficient, rugged, and easy to maintain.   

Before production had ended on the F7 nearly 4,000 units were produced outselling all other manufacturers' designs, combined. The F7 proved so reliable and useful for many roads that hundreds remained in regular freight service through the 1970s and 1980s. 

Today, numerous F7's remain preserved (partially due it being the last model of its kind manufactured on a large scale) and some even continue to haul freight, a true testament to their design. The most famous set (a pair of B units) is the fleet owned by Class I Norfolk Southern used as part of its official business train.

Electro-Motive's beautiful A-B-A set of F7 demonstrators, #1950, seen here outside the plant at La Grange, Illinois in June of 1950.

The EMD F7 began production in February of 1949. Internally, the model varied slightly from the F3 as it still carried GM's 16-cylinder, model 567B prime mover which could produce 1,500 horsepower.

It did use a slightly updated generator, the model D12B, and traction motor, the model D27C, first used on the "F5", which was technically a late model F3 (EMD did not distinguish the locomotive as an F5, instead referring to the slight variants as phases).

The new traction motor was meant to be more rugged and durable than the previous.  However, it continued to offer the locomotive the same tractive effort as the earlier F3; 56,500 pounds starting and 40,000 pounds continuous. Using a similar frame design as the F3, F2, and FT the F7 was just over 50 feet in length and weighed 115 tons.  

Santa Fe F7A #306-L and other covered wagons are between assignments at Barstow, California as Mr. Randy Doss stands next to the shined up Warbonnets, circa 1953-1955. Photo from the Randy Doss collection.

Once again railroads very much liked EMD's latest F model and many which had yet to fully dieselize did so after their F7 orders were completed (wartime restrictions had still held back some lines from either starting or completing their change over to diesel power).

The model was easy to maintain and very reliable; coupled with a matching 1,500 horsepower cabless B unit a set of F7s could double a train's power to 3,000 hp (in theory you could equip as many Fs to a single train as you wished, whether at the head-end or cut-in throughout the train).

While intended for use in freight service, with their clean, streamlined design many F7s also found their way into passenger service alongside E units (notably on the Santa Fe which sometimes featured Fs on trains as posh as the Super Chief and El Capitan). 

Generally, the locomotive was equipped with a 62:15 gear ratio for freight service, offering a top speed of around 65 mph.  However, for passenger assignments they were geared for higher speeds. 

As with the F3, EMD slightly upgraded the F7's carbody during its production run although most changes were primarily focused on the grille area.

Santa Fe F7A #235-C and a long string of covered wagons have what appears to be a block of reefers in central New Mexico circa 1956. James Ehernberger photo.

The EMD F7 was the SD40-2 of its day, the first true "common" diesel locomotive; thousands were built and could be found powering almost any train. When production had ended some 2,366 F7As and 1,483 F7Bs had been produced by 1953 just four years after the locomotive was first cataloged.  

According to an article by Don Strack, published in the November/December 1991 issue of "Diesel Era: Volume 2, Number 6" the, "base price on two cab units was $161,000 and the base price for two booster units was $147,500."  

This was also the first instance of the Electro-Motive Division's new General Motors Diesel (GMD) subsidiary filling orders. Located in London, Ontario, the new plant made it much easier to sell locomotives to Canadian lines. 

In all, GMD sold 127 examples to the Canadian National, Canadian Pacific, and the Wabash for its line in southern Ontario between Detroit and Niagara Falls/Buffalo, New York. The model was EMD's most successful in the F series as no other future design ever came close to matching the F7's sales numbers.

A former Bessemer & Lake Erie F7A has been recently acquired by the Baltimore & Ohio (built as B&LE #711-A) but only received a quick patch job before being placed into freight service, seen here ahead of two GP9's circa late 1962.

EMD F7A Production Roster

Owner Road Number(s) Quantity Date Built
Alaska Railroad1500-1508 (Evens)51952-1953
Atlantic Coast Line348-429821950-1951
Baltimore & Ohio180-192, 180A-192A (Evens), 231-237, 239-374, 239A-365A (Odds), 929-993, 929A-993A (Odds) 1441949-1952
Bessemer & Lake Erie701A-728A281950-1953
Boston & Maine4265-426841949
Burlington163A-169A, 167C-169C101950
Charleston & Western Carolina Railway900-90561950
Chesapeake & Ohio7000-7085861950-1952
Chicago & North Western4067A-4102A, 4067C-4102C, 6500A-6505A, 6500C-6505C841949- 1950
Chicago Great Western153-15641949
Clinchfield Railroad806-820151951-1952
Colorado & Southern Railway (CB&Q)700A-702A, 700D-702D61950
Denver & Rio Grande Western555-564, 5651-5764 (Only 1s and 4s.)671948-1952
Electro-Motive (Demo)459A, 459D, 801-802, 930, 1950A, 1950B, 504081949-1952
Erie Railroad711A-712A, 711D-712D, 807A, 807D61950-1951
Fort Worth & Denver City (CB&Q)750A-752A, 750D-752D61950
Great Northern268A-274A, 271B-275B, 275A-276A, 280A-281A, 307A-317A, 307C-317C, 350A, 360A, 364A-365A, 364C-365C, 444A-456A (Evens), 444D-456D (Evens), 460A-468A (Evens), 460D-468D (Evens)681949-1953
Gulf, Mobile & Ohio811B-812B, 812A-813A41949
Kansas, Oklahoma & Gulf Railway751-75441949
Kansas City Southern (Including Subsidiaries)32A-33A, 59D, 70A-76A, 72D-76D151949- 1950
Lackawanna611A-611C, 631A-636A, 631C91949
Lehigh Valley560-574 (Evens)81950-1951
Louisville & Nashville800-858, 900-903631950-1951
Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis809-831231949-1951
Milwaukee Road48A-50A, 48C-50C, 68A-89A, 84D-85D, 68C-79C, 87C-89C, 106A-111A, 109C-111C, 113A-121A, 113C-121C681949-1953
Minneapolis & St. Louis Railway150A-151A, 150C-151C, 250A, 250C, 350A, 350C81949- 1950
Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad (Katy)208A-211A, 226A-229A, 208C-211C, 228C- 229C141949
Missouri Pacific (Including Some Subsidiaries)577-626, 1500-15821331949-1951
Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis816-820, 826-831101950-1951
New York Central1636-18732381949-1952
Northern Pacific6007A-6020A, 6007D-6020D, 6507A-6508A, 6500C-6502C, 6509A-6515A, 6507C- 65013C471947-1951
Pennsylvania9640A-9655A, 9662A-9676A, 9690A-9699A, 9764A-9831A, 9872A-9879A1171949- 1952
Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac 1101-1110101949-1950
Rock Island100-127, 675-677311949-1951
Santa Fe37-47, 37C-47C, 200L-280L, 200C-280C, 202-280, 300-316, 336-344, 300L-314L, 325L- 344L3241948-1953
Soo Line212A-214A, 212B-214B, 2201A-2203A, 2201C-2203C, 2224A-2230A (Wisconsin Central), 2224B-2230B (Wisconsin Central)261949-1953
Southern Pacific338-381 (T&NO), 6140A-6169A, 6140D-6169D, 6240-6423, 6440-64452881949- 1953
Southern Railway (Including Subsidiaries)4207-4269, 6114-6120, 6714-6719651949- 1951
Spokane, Portland & Seattle803-80641953
St. Louis San Francisco Railway (Frisco)5018-5039221949-1950
St. Louis Southwestern Railway (Cotton Belt/SP)925-975 (Odds)261950-1952
Texas & Pacific Railway (MP)1500-1582831949-1952
Texas-Mexican Railway800A-800B21949
Wabash Railroad1100-1108, 1100A-1108A, 1140-1154, 1140A-1154A, 1165-1188, 1165A- 1188A961949-1953
Western Maryland53-66, 231-242/td>261950-1952
Western Pacific913A-924A, 913D-924D241950-1951

EMD F7B Production Roster

Owner Road Number(s) Quantity Date Built
Alaska Railroad1501-1507 (Odds)41952-1953
Atlantic Coast Line392B-403B121951
Baltimore & Ohio153x-171x (Odds); 180x-192x, 180Ax, 192Ax (Evens); 231x-237x (Odds); 249x-297x (Odds); 361x, 363x, 363Ax, 365x, 365Ax; 367x-374x, 367Ax-374Ax; 929x-961x (Odds); 977x-993x (Odds)1001949-1953
Bessemer & Lake Erie701B-726B261950-1953
Boston & Maine4265B-4268B41950
Chicago & North Western4067B-4094B281949-1952
Chicago Great Western113B-116B, 108D-116D, 116E, 116F, 116G161949-1951
Clinchfield Railroad853-863111949-1952
Colorado & Southern Railway (CB&Q)700B-702B, 700C-702C61950
Denver & Rio Grande Western555-564, 5652-5762 (Only 2s and 3s.)661949-1952
Electro-Motive (Demo)459B, 459C, 7002-7003, 9052-905361949-1952
Erie Railroad711B-712B, 711C-713C, 807B61950-1952
Fort Worth & Denver City (CB&Q)750B-752B, 750C-752C61950
Great Northern268B-270B, 280B-281B, 307B-309B, 311B-317B, 350B, 364B-365B, 380B-385B, 444B-468B (Evens), 444C-468C (Evens), 500B-504B451949-1953
Gulf, Mobile & OhioB65-B74101949-1950
Kansas, Oklahoma & Gulf Railway755B-756B21949
Kansas City Southern32B-33B, 70B-79B, 72C-78C171949-1950
Lackawanna611B, 632B-636B61949
Lehigh Valley561-571 (Odds)61950-1951
Louisville & Nashville703-716, 900-902171950-1951
Milwaukee Road48B-50B, 68B-79B, 84B-85B, 87B-105B, 109B-111B, 113B-121B, 84C-85C481949- 1953
Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad (Katy)65D-65G, 121B-124B, 207B91949
Missouri Pacific (Including Some Subsidiaries)587B-596B, 629B-630B, 1500B-1534B471949- 1951
Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis912-91981949-1950
New York Central2420-2474551949-1951
Northern Pacific6007B-6020B, 6007C-6020C, 6050, 6510B-6513B, 6550341949-1952
Pennsylvania9547B-9555B (Odds), 9640B-9648B, 9650B-9660B (Evens), 9667B-9676B, 9764B-9818B (Evens), 9832B-9858B (Evens), 9872B-9878B (Evens)761949-1952
Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac1151-1160101949-1950
Rock Island100B-109B, 120B-123B, 675B-677B171949-1951
Santa Fe200A-280A, 200B-280B, 300A-314A, 300B-314B, 325A-344A, 325B-340B2281948- 1953
Soo Line500B-503B, 2101C-2203C (WC), 2204C (WC), 2500B-2501B (WC)101949-1952
Southern Pacific538-553, 6140B-6169B, 6140C-6169C, 8140-83032401949-1953
Southern Railway (Including Subsidiaries)4385-4428, 6160-6183, 6756-6758711949- 1951
St. Louis San Francisco Railway (Frisco)5118-5139221949-1952
St. Louis Southwestern Railway (Cotton Belt/SP)926-958 (Evens)161950-1952
Texas & Pacific Railway (MP)1500B-1534B351949-1952
Union Pacific910B, 910C, 1466B-1474B (Evens), 1466C-1474C (Evens), 1476B-1496B, 1476C-1496C331951-1952
Wabash Railroad1100B-1108B91949-1950
Western Maryland53B-59B, 61B-65B (Odds), 231B-237B, 239B-243B (Odds)201950-1953
Western Pacific804B-805B, 913B-924B, 913C-924C261950-1951

A Rock Island freight, led by F7A #120, departs Denver, Colorado circa 1969. Today, the Rock's route into the Mile High City is abandoned. Author's collection.

The EMD F7's reliability and ruggedness can still be seen today as dozens remain preserved and in operation with a handful still work freight trains, notably on short line Grafton & Upton (now stored) and Keokuk Junction Railway (two FP9A's and an F9B).

Other places one can still find F7s in use include:

  • Conway Scenic Railway

  • Reading Company Technical & Historical Society

  • Adirondack Scenic Railroad

  • Royal Gorge Railroad

  • Illinois Railway Museum

  • Potomac Eagle Scenic Railroad

  • Fillmore & Western

The most famous F7s pulled Norfolk Southern's business train for many years, featuring a livery inspired by predecessor Southern Railway. The units have since been sold: F9A #270 and F7B #275 were purchased by Reading & Northern on November 23, 2019 for passenger service. 

Just a few weeks later it was announced on December 13, 2019 that North Carolina short line Aberdeen Carolina & Western would acquire F9A #271 and F7B #276. 

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Wes Barris's SteamLocomotive.com is simply the best web resource in the study of steam locomotives. 

The amount of information found there is quite staggering; historical backgrounds of wheel arrangements, types used by virtually every railroad, preserved and operational examples, and even those used in other countries (North America and beyond). 

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Researching Rights-Of-Way

A popular pastime for many is studying and/or exploring abandoned rights-of-way. 

Today, there are tens of thousands of miles scattered throughout the country.  Many were pulled up in the 1970's and 1980's although others were removed long before that. 

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It is an excellent resource with thousands of historic maps on file throughout the country.  Just type in a town or city and click on the timeline of maps at the bottom of the page!